Broward Circuit Judge Bill Haury came to law by way of boating. He came to South Florida by way of a train strike.
A Philadelphia native — and still an Eagles, Phillies and Flyers fan — Haury grew up around boats and business. His father owned a hospital and surgical supply company, and the family tended to have a boat, usually a Bertram.
Haury went to Boston College for a business degree and a shot at playing Division I football. He walked on as a quarterback, but “for three weeks,” he said, “every pass I threw was in the dirt. I scrimmaged as a safety and ended up actually starting a couple of games on the JV team as a tailback.”
A knee injury cut short his gridiron play. After graduating, he landed a job selling Bertrams in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.
“The only problem with being in the boat business is you really don’t have any time to go boating,” he said.
The money was good, but after two years Haury remembered the words of a lawyer he knew who encouraged him to become an attorney. “I think his quote was: ‘You don’t have to be anyone’s doormat.’ ”
After law school, Haury went to work for a medical malpractice and products liability defense firm in Manhattan. Criminal law was never a consideration.
“I spent a summer as an intern at the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and that was pretty much enough to cure me of any desire to go into criminal law,” he said.
That was also the first time he looked at the court system and came away dissatisfied. “It did not appear to me at all to be very efficient.”
He stayed with the Manhattan law firm or two years, commuting from Stamford, Connecticut, by train — an hour, 15 in; an hour, 15 back. Then came the Metro North strike. The commute turned into a six-hour ordeal — three hours in, and three hours out. “I basically said, ‘No mas!’ ”
South Florida beckoned.
“I had worked the 1977 Miami Boat Show and I remembered flying into Miami and just looking down at all the aqua green water and every house had a swimming pool and the weather was absolutely beautiful and I figured, ‘This is not a bad way to spend February.’ ”
Haury “lined up about a dozen interviews, packed the car for about two weeks and drove down and never went back.”
He spent the first three years in Florida at a couple of different firms, doing mostly insurance defense. In 1986, he went on his own, and did civil and commercial litigation until he was appointed to the bench in 2008. As a judge, he started in the mental health and drug courts. He moved to foreclosures in March. In January, he’s scheduled to go where he thought he belonged all along, to civil court.
“I figure I spent 25 years on the civil side. It’s where all my background experience is, and just to put somebody over an area where they know absolutely nothing I don’t think is fair to anybody,” he said. “You would think you would put people in divisions where they’re best qualified to serve. But it doesn’t seem to work out that way unfortunately.”
Haury said he also has been disappointed with resistance to change in the courts.
“It’s been somewhat frustrating to get the bureaucracy here to make any changes that will be more user-friendly,” he said. “I think probably the biggest example I can give to you is the way they schedule hearings and foreclosures.”
Currently, he said, two judges split approximately 240 cases a day — half in the morning, and half in the afternoon. When he arrived in the division, Haury said, the cases in each session were all set for the same time.
“Theoretically you had 120 people, times two, showing up at 8:45,” he said, “and everybody expects to have their case heard when they get there. I mean it is absolutely ludicrous to try to operate on that basis. What I’ve tried to do because of that is basically try to give time slots in the morning depending on what year your case is – ’08 and before at 8:45, ’09s at 9:00″ and so forth.
His business background and years running his solo practice show in his efforts to make the courts more efficient.
“I’ve made an effort not just in foreclosures but also in the mental health unit to develop pretty much like office procedures as to how things should be done,” he said. “As a matter-of-fact, I was really surprised when I first came here that in terms of people switching divisions it was for the most part like passing on tribal knowledge. Nothing was committed to writing.”
Similarly, he expects attorneys to follow procedures.
“I certainly would hope that the attorneys are prepared and able to speak intelligently about matters and, certainly, concede the points that they should concede and not waste everybody’s time arguing something that doesn’t make any sense.”